Top Snorkeling and Diving Spots in the Philippines Beyond the Usual Suspects

Snorkeling and scuba diving are excellent ways to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the Philippines. While Boracay and El Nido are wonderful destinations that deserve their fame, there is a whole country of other impressive spots waiting to be explored. 


Located in Cebu province, Moalboal is one of the top destinations in the Visayas region for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. The city has gained recognition as the place to see sardines run, where millions of sardines move together in swirling schools visible just below the surface.

Pescador Island

Just a 20-minute boat ride away from Moalboal is the small island of Pescador, home to spectacular soft and hard coral gardens. The shallow waters provide excellent conditions for snorkeling, with visibility often exceeding 30 meters. Schooling fish, sea turtles, moray eels and sharks are commonly sighted. There are scenic beaches for relaxing in between dips in the ocean. Advanced divers can explore deeper waters and walls, teaming with marine life.

Hidden Beach and Tumalog Falls

For a picturesque day trip combining swimming and nature, check out Hidden Beach and the stunning cascades of Tumalog Falls. The lagoon-like cove of Hidden Beach offers calm, clear waters for novice snorkelers, young and old, to spot tropical reef fish. A short hike leads to the refreshing pools and waterfalls of Tumalog Falls, where you can take a refreshing dip. Don’t forget your picnic!

Panagsama Beach

On the northern side of Moalboal is the pristine white-sand beach of Panagsama, home to productive reefs just offshore. The gentle slope allows for easy access for snorkeling. Schools of diverse reef fish, turtles, and small reef sharks are commonly sighted in the crystal clear waters. Nearby cottages offer comfortable accommodation combined with splendid vistas overlooking the Sibuyan Sea.

Apo Island

Declared a marine reserve in 1965, Apo Island in Negros Oriental province has acted as a safe haven for thriving coral reefs and biodiversity. The virtually untouched ecosystem supports over 300 species of fish and a diverse array of hard and soft corals, making it a top destination for responsible diving and snorkeling.

Turtles, sharks, and schools of fish

The sheer volume and diversity of marine life in Apo Island’s waters is astounding. Green sea turtles regularly feed on sea grasses, while sightings of reef sharks, barracudas, and jackfish are not uncommon. Multicolored schools of damselfish, triggerfish, and sergeant majors add flashes of vibrancy to the seascape. With minimal currents and an average visibility of 20 meters, the protected waters provide ideal conditions for observing sea life up close and personal.

Best spots around the island

There are several prime spots around the island designated for snorkeling and scuba diving. Popular areas include South Beach, Tabsakan Point and Cathedral Rock. Further out, the promontory of Apo Island offers challenging dives down rocky walls and ledges with outcroppings of hard coral. For non-divers, snorkeling trips to nearby Bird Island and Secret Beach are excellent alternatives to admire the stunning underwater realm. On land, visitors can trek forest trails dotted with endemic plants.

Protecting paradise

Ensuring the long-term protection of its thriving ecosystems, Apo Island strictly limits tourist numbers to keep human impact low while raising awareness locally and abroad. Boat operators and guides have undergone extensive training to adopt sustainable practices. Proper waste disposal and conservation fees go towards community-led initiatives helping preserve this marine gem for generations to come.

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Malapascua Island

The island of Malapascua, situated off the northern tip of Cebu province, has earned recognition as one of the top destinations in the country for thresher shark encounters. Beyond this unique appeal, the waters surrounding this idyllic island offer rich reef diving and snorkeling.

Thresher sharks in Monad Shoal

Every year from November to June, juvenile thresher schools can be observed in Monad Shoal during their morning feeding sessions. Swimming peacefully below divers and snorkelers, their long tails gracefully whip back and forth as they circle schools of fish and plankton. For responsible viewing of these magnificent yet elusive creatures, trips are scheduled early before they disperse to deeper waters for the day.

Verde Island Passage diversity

Considered the center of the “Coral Triangle,” the waters of the Verde Island Passage radiating from Malapascua buzz with biodiversity. In addition to thresher sharks, other pelagics like manta rays, whale sharks, and sea turtles frequent the area. Reef systems boast hard and soft corals, sponges, and an incredible variety of small reef fish among dramatic seamounts and ridges. Nearby Gato and Sumilon Islands offer scenic beach breaks in between dives.

Accommodation and services

A handful of low-key resorts, homestays, and dive shops in Malapascua cater to the dive tourism market. Basic amenities and international cuisine keep guests comfortable. Professional operators run scheduled trips with responsible practices to minimize environmental impact while ensuring memorable shark encounters. With its remote island charm and world-class diving, Malapascua makes for an adventure not to be missed.

Siquijor Island

Mysterious and vastly unspoiled, Siquijor in Central Visayas holds untapped potential as a diving and snorkeling paradise. As with many promising spots in the Philippines, development remains gradual to preserve its natural heritage. Beyond rumors of black magic, this enchanting isle promises underwater magic of its own.

Coral reefs and critters galore

The waters encircling Siquijor shelter lush walls, pinnacles and reef flat teeming with marine life. Schools of anthias, angelfish, butterflyfish and bannerfish pop with color against vibrant soft and hard corals. Gorgonian sea fans waving elegant branches add texture to the seascape. With minimal currents, average visibility ranges from 15-30 meters to observe sea snakes, moray eels, pufferfish and more up close.

Top sites for exploration

Divers keen to survey the island’s rich offerings have plenty of prime spots to choose from, such as Cambugahay Reef, White Beach, San Juan, and Siete Picados. Beginner-friendly dives introduce sea mounts, reefs, and critters, while experienced divers can challenge themselves on technical drift dives along underwater cliffs hosting diverse coral gardens. Boat trips from resorts facilitate getting around to find one’s ideal adventure.

Island charm and low-key vibe

Steeped in legend, Siquijor’s interior enchants tropical rainforests, waterfalls, caves, churches, and mystic healers. Friendly locals swell with pride in their island home’s natural beauty. Low-rise resorts and homestays sensitively blend into the landscape while satisfying visitors’ needs. With responsible development proceeding at a calm pace and being well integrated with the environment and culture, Siquijor promises exciting discoveries for diving’s more intrepid spirits.

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Southern Leyte

When it comes to off-the-beaten-path diving, Southern Leyte holds hidden pearls scattered offshore its varied coastline in Eastern Visayas. White beaches stretching toward jungle-clad hills provide a scenic tropical backdrop between dives.

Maasin and Hinunangan Bay

At the southern tip of Leyte Island, Maasin and Hinunangan Bay earn praise for productive reef diving and snorkeling. Popular spots include Marine Reserves 1 and 2, dotted with gorgonian sea fans and hard corals attracting many varieties of reef fish. Beyond soft white-sand coves lie dramatic walls dropping into deeper blue. Whale sharks and dolphins delight transient divers from November to January.

Padre Burgos and Limasawa Island

Further south, the municipalities of Padre Burgos and Limasawa Island offer even more remote diving playgrounds brimming with biodiversity. For novice snorkelers and those seeking relaxation, drift diving along shallow patches reveals sea horses, clams, shrimps, and colorful reef life. Dedicated explorers can survey underwater rock formations and coral gardens hosting myriad sea creatures down to 25 meters or more. With minimal crowds and infrastructure, raw natural beauty abounds.

Dolphin and whale spotting

Between December and April, humpback whales arrive in Southern Leyte’s sheltered bays to breed and give birth, performing dazzling breaches, tail slaps, and song. On lucky sightings from land or boat, pods can be observed frolicking through calm harbors. Throughout the year, friendly spotted and bottlenose dolphins frequently escort boats as they traverse between dive sites. Their playful antics mesmerize young and old alike.

Camiguin Island

This petite yet perfectly formed island north of Bohol proves itself a hidden diving and snorkeling gem. Volcanic in origin, Camiguin’s coastline takes on dramatic shapes molded by Mother Nature. Turquoise waters lap against black volcanic sand shorelines flanked by lush interior hills.

Cold Water and Mants Caves

Two of Camiguin’s premier cave diving sites present an otherworldly experience beneath the ocean surface. Cold Water Cave fascinates with its labyrinth of passages leading divers through aquamarine tunnels. Meanwhile, Manta Cave plays host nightly from May to September to transient manta rays filtering plankton from its heights. Strong currents and technical requirements deem these adventures for experienced divers.

Barangay Agohay and White Island

More mellow options perfect for all skill levels include the blue waters surrounding Barangay Agohay and nearby White Island. Hard and soft corals carpet the sea floor among schools of damselfish and anthias. Eagle and manta rays, joined by sea snakes and moray eels, add to the natural drama. With minimal development and pollution, visibility stretches beyond 30 meters for maximum appreciation of marine life.

Accommodations ashore

A budding selection of low-key resorts and homestay-style lodgings now dot Camiguin’s shores to serve the diving crowd. Simple yet tasteful rooms equipped with modern necessities provide comfortable bases between excursions. Family-run establishments infuse a personal touch, helping visitors truly experience relaxed island living and genuine Filipino hospitality. Delectable regional seafood cuisine completes the blissful Camiguin package.

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